‘ALPHAS’ REVIEW: Season One, Episode Four

Review of “Rosetta” (01:04)

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SPOILER ALERT!

Alphas has officially rebounded. The new Syfy Original Series had a stellar 90-minute pilot, but faltered badly in the second episode. In the third installment, the team of super-humans overseen by Dr. Lee Rosen (David Strathairn) fell nicely into a rhythm as they took on a bad-ass enemy.

This week’s episode, titled “Rosetta,” builds on last week’s episode and the improvements are noticeable.

First off, there is a fine focus on Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright), and we learn a lot about his character. We first see him brushing his teeth in the bathroom, with his mother answering his every beck and call. If the glass of water he requests every night isn’t the right temperature, he sends her back to the kitchen to try again. Gary is a person with high-functioning autism who enjoys having his mother cater to his every need.

Ryan Cartwright in "Alphas" — Photo courtesy of Justin Stephens / Syfy

When his mother leaves the bathroom, the human antennae picks up on a troubling signal that eventually leads the Alphas to Milos Kosar, also known as The Ghost, the apparent leader of a revolutionary underground movement known as the Red Flag. Gary finds Kosar after tracking his cell phone.

The introduction of the Red Flag is a welcome development for the Syfy series. The show can’t simply be another episodic crime procedural; some type of over-arching storyline is needed to string together the trials and tribulations of the Alphas team. Hopefully, the Red Flag will prove to be this necessary link.

Working off Gary’s discovery, the Alphas stake out Kosar’s residence. As Bill Harken (Malik Yoba, an actor that still hasn’t grown on me) blasts in and Cameron Hicks (Warren Christie) skillfully shoots his way in, Kosar uses his Alpha power by turning off the electricity and escaping through the back door.

What he leaves in his wake is a puzzle piece for the team: Anna, a low-functioning autistic woman who not only has developed a unique language using a hairbrush and nearby knickknacks, but she also understands every language in the world. With Anna is a strange propaganda video that touts the Red Flag as the inevitable future.

Eventually, Anna starts to talk through her computer, and she helps Gary and the team find Kosar, who is driving a U.S. Department of Transportation truck with explosives attached to the underbelly.

Gary’s relationship with Anna is a sweet one. Sharing their medical condition of autism, the two begin a budding romance and deep friendship. In many ways, Gary begins to grow up thanks to Anna’s help. He no longer requires his mother, Sandra Bell (Jane Moffat), to do everything for him, and he refuses to take orders from his fellow team members. This type of episode, which focuses on one character, is the hallmark of a series that knows what it’s doing. Alphas would do well to work its way through each of the characters to learn about their nuances and sensitivities.

Just when the audience thinks Gary and Anna are a match made in heaven, reality comes back into the picture. Anna actually leads the Alphas to the wrong DOT truck, and she reveals that Red Flag is her organization. Kosar works for Anna.

Gary is the first person to learn of this information, and Anna tries to recruit him to her side. The reason for the truck bombing, she says, is that a New Jersey medical facility is about to go to market with a drug that will stop future Alphas from being born. Red Flag wants to send a message that these super-humans need to be respected.

Obvious undertones of terrorism and underground political movements like The Weather Underground are at play in “Rosetta.” These subtle references to contemporary problems will make Alphas a cut above the rest. Having superpowers is all well and good, but grounding the show in a political reality should work wonders.

The climatic showdown in New Jersey is an exciting one. Timed bombs make for great television. In the end, after the flames have subsided, Markos has died, but Red Flag and Anna live on.

As far as Gary’s growth as a character, we find out that he has gained a crucial bit of independence. He tells Rosen blankly, “You’re not one of us.”

The final moments of episode four set up the Red Flag as a perpetual problem for the Alphas. Apparently the underground movement is like a pesky weed; it has grown far and wide.

Thank the heavens that the Alphas now have a formidable opponent, and hopefully Anna, an interesting and uncompromising addition to the show, will be back for a few more episodes.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com
  • Alphas

  • Syfy, Mondays at 10 p.m.

  • Created by Zak Penn and Michael Karnow

  • Starring David Strathairn, Ryan Cartwright, Warren Christie, Azita Ghanizada, Laura Mennell, Malik Yoba and Jane Moffat

  • Rating: ★★★½

  • Click here for more information.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications.

E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

4 thoughts on “‘ALPHAS’ REVIEW: Season One, Episode Four

  • August 3, 2011 at 12:00 am
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    Interestingly enough, I had the opposite opinion about the pilot, finding it uninspiring. I do agree that the show has been getting better.
    What I do find evocative, is that Anna’s organization touches allegorically at more interesting movements than the Weather Underground. The allegory here is closer to activism related to (most obviously) autistic community, the LGBT community, the Deaf community among others. It appears to be with that Zak Penn is trying to deepen the relevance of his story

    Reply
  • August 3, 2011 at 12:54 am
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    FYI: We prefer to use “people-first language”. For example, “Gary is a high-functioning autistic…” should be “Gary is a person with high-functioning autism…” A person is not defined by their medical conditions. The person is primary, the condition secondary.

    Ryan’s portrayal is spot-on and I am so glad the creators of the show took such great time in making sure his character was not a caricature, but a real, 3-dimensional person. The introduction of Anna was a surprise tonight. My son has a lower functioning form of autism and I have always wondered if the way he manipulates items was his way of communication one that I just could not understand without some sort of translator.

    I love this show.

    Reply
  • August 3, 2011 at 6:52 am
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    Thank you for the comment, and I have amended the text according to your suggestion on “people-first language.”

    Thanks for reading.

    John

    Reply
  • August 3, 2011 at 8:54 am
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    “Stellar 90-minute pilot”? Yeah, that’s a little off. Like A.A. Roi, I thought that the pilot was forgettable and almost lost me for the rest of the series. The past three episodes, have been, dare I say…bordering on greatness. This could be “the One”.

    Reply

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